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Click to view road test review picture gallery“David Miles believes
  the all-new Ford
  Mondeo is good
  enough to deserve an
  all-new name. Ford
  begs to differ. But does
  it really matter for the
  car Auto Express
  magazine voted ‘Car
  of the Year 2007’...”

FOLLOWING THIS WEEK'S PUBLICATION of the UK's July new car registration figures by the Society of Motor Manufact-urers and Traders, Ford has retained its position as the top-selling brand in the UK for the year to date. However, they were outsold for the second consecutive month by Vauxhall although Ford still says they are on their way to their 31st consecutive year as market leader in the UK.

Whilst the Ford Focus has returned to pole position as the best selling model range, the new Mondeo — which went on sale in June — has yet to make an appearance in the top ten sales charts. Its two main rivals, the Vauxhall Vectra and VW Passat, held seventh and tenth positions respectively.

Last year Ford sold 48,000 Mondeo saloons, hatchbacks and estates in the UK and over 35,000 of them were diesel models. This made the Mondeo the third best selling diesel model range after the Ford Focus and VW Passat. In fact, from 2003 to 2005 the Mondeo had been the UK's best selling diesel car.

For the record, total Mondeo sales in the UK since 1993 number well over the million — 1,172,769 units. Traditionally, 70 per cent are diesel-powered and 70 per cent are sold to the fleet market.

The Mondeo has always been the car that typifies the 'rep-mobile' company car which gave us 'Mondeo Man' and 'Mr Average' — labels categorically not appreciated by its drivers and certainly a 'put-off' to other customers who didn't want to be seen driving a typical company car.

The all-new Mondeo range, though, is a more sophisticated and appealing line-up. They are larger, with more desirable styling and vastly improved specification and quality.

The new range is so much better and it seriously deserves a better name than 'Mondeo', which is an unavoidable reminder of its past reputation as a mass-market fleet car. For Ford, the new Mondeo has to now appeal both to the current fleet and business markets as well as a move upmarket to compete against premium brands such as
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. This is a tricky problem for Ford.

Firstly, they cannot lose sales to price-sensitive family-sized models from their rivals — such as the Vauxhall Vectra, VW Passat, Honda Accord, Toyota Avensis or Peugeot 407. Secondly, because Ford has no large or executive car above the Mondeo, they also have to use
the new model to compete against the Audi A4/A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes C- and E-Class models.

Ford's answer has been to create a wide range of body options, spec-ification levels and engines choices all in one larger overall size. Their advertising strapline of 'feel the difference' alludes to the new higher quality and image of all-new Mondeo. That being so, I for one am not convinced 'executive' company car drivers will really aspire to owning a Mondeo — no matter how good it is.

However, it appears from reports from Ford's UK dealers that the showroom footfall of interested customers has greatly increased since the media launch of the all-new Mondeo. Positive editorial reviews are literally driving customers into the showrooms and no doubt the extensive television advertising campaign has awakened the British public to the fact that Ford really can build a better car.

Ford's S-Max is currently holder of the 2007 European Car of the Year title so can the new Mondeo become the 2008 European Car of the Year? It probably deserves to, but would the judges give it to Ford for a second year running?

Whatever happens next year, the awards are already rolling in: Auto Express magazine named the Mondeo as their overall 'Car of the Year 2007', as well judging it 'Best Family Car' and 'Best Estate Car'.

Mondeo range prices start at 14,995 and rise to 24,195 with Edge, Zetec, Ghia, Titanium and Titanium X levels of specification. There is a wide range of petrol and diesel engines from 1.6 to 2.5-litre capacity.

I've not so much had a 'Mondeo moment', but rather a longer spell with Ford's great new sales 'hope' and brand elevator. The model in question was the best-selling five-door hatchback with a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine. The car had the Titanium X specification with a price tag of 21,645, but extra-cost items pushed its 'drive away' price up to 23,845 — well into 'premium brand' territory.

Having driven new Mondeo models abroad and at home for short spells, it is nice to get the really important cars for a longer period back home in the UK. Driving them on familiar British roads (good), in familiar British traffic (not so good!) and being able to gauge public reaction to them, is a handy reality check.

My longer spell with the new Ford Mondeo has, generally speaking, re-confirmed my original positive views about the design and integrity of the car — although I'm still not sure that retaining the Mondeo name for a such an improved and much classier car was the right move by Ford. But then, it's not my call, is it?

As soon as you come to park the new Mondeo you discover this is
a much bigger car — 4,778mm in length for the best-selling five-door hatchback. For the record, the width is 1,886mm and the height 1,500mm. The longer, 2,850mm wheelbase provides for much more interior legroom, particularly in the rear. It is now a genuine five-seater, with a huge 528 litres of luggage space with all five seats in use, and a massive 1,448 litres with the rear seats folded.

The looks are also classier; the design says 'quality' and pound-for-pound the specifications levels are much higher — even though the prices, in some cases, are marginally lower.

The Titanium X model is designed to give a 'sports' image and its stan-dard specification includes adaptive front lighting, heated front seats, Alcantara fabric and leather upholstery, dual air conditioning, an elect-ronic stability programme, anti-lock braking, front, side, front knee and curtain airbags, an uprated Sony sound system and lots of bright metal interior trim. In addition, the test car had a mobile 'phone Bluetooth hands-free and voice control package, a really good touch-screen DVD navigation system and the Sports Pack that includes larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a firmer sports suspension and a rear sports spoiler.

I personally wouldn't go for the Sports Pack. The larger wheels com-promise the handling, making the car tramline on our poor road sur-faces, and the stiffer suspension settings do nothing for ride comfort
or improve on the really very good standard road holding performance. Road noise intrusion is also too high.

The previous Mondeo was noisy, uncomfortable, cramped and tiring to drive. In most areas, the new model in a vast improvement. With 236-251lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, the 138bhp 2.0-litre engine is res-ponsive. It also feels strong, likes to be revved and — helped by the long-legged six-speed transmission — it is very economical for a car of this size: witness the good 46.9mpg recorded during my week's driving over all sorts of roads, both for long and short journeys. The four-cylinder direct injection, common-rail diesel unit uses a variable geo-metry turbocharger with intercooler and overboost function to run the zero to 60mph 'sprint' in 9.3 seconds. The maximum speed is 130mph.

The driving position is excellent, although the thick rear quarter pillars and steeply raked rear tailgate window do restrict vision. Another negative point is the reflection in the windscreen of the vent on top of the facia. Not bad: two minor niggles only about a new Ford model which overall is very good indeed. On the plus side there's the interior space, the huge boot (this is a family car, so these things matter), a more up-market image, improved quality and a classy specification which goes some way to justifying why some top model prices are now in the 'premium sector'. Finally, the new Mondeo, in a few true words, is a good drive. — David Miles

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Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium X 5-door | 21,645
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-60mph: 9.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 46.9mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236-251lb ft

CO2 156g/km | VED Band D 140 | Insurance group 8E
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